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Beginning a Home Search

This article will help you begin your search for a new home, with advice about navigating the housing market and finding a home that is right for you. If this is your first home buying experience, here are a few tips.

First Step in a Home Search: Find Listings in Your Area

There are many ways to find available homes for sale in your desired locations. If you are unsure where you want to look for a home, start your home search by researching communities that interest you.

  • The Internet: The internet is a powerful resource you can use to find homes for sale in your price range and area of interest. It's a great way to begin your home search. Some websites are even smart enough to suggest other, nearby areas where your money could stretch further. You can access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) yourself, or you can work with a real estate broker to create a list of homes you'd like to visit. You can visit popular real estate sales websites like Realtor.comZillowHomefinderTruliaRedFin, and countless others. These sites include photos and descriptions of homes for sale, past sale prices, tax information, and information about the community. They often have a map of the area, making it easy to drive by to look at the home. These sites typically draw information from the MLS, but may not be as up to date as the MLS. You can also find specialty sites that focus on luxury homes, land for sale, hobby farms, or lake cabins. Cities and counties have web pages that advertise foreclosed or tax-forfeited properties.
  • Drive around residential neighborhoods you like: Many people find a home simply by seeing the "For Sale" sign when they are driving or walking around a neighborhood. If you go on a weekend, you may see homes hosting open-house events. Stop in and take a look. This is a good way to meet local realtors. Also, people may sell their house as "For Sale by Owner" and not advertise their home in conventional places like on the Internet. The only way you may ever find these opportunities is by seeing a sign on the front lawn. Be aware that in a hot housing market, some homes sell even before they are listed. A "For Sale" sign may appear with SOLD already on it.
  • Realtors: You might choose to start your home search by talking with a realtor first. Or you may do your research and then find a realtor who specializes in the area you want to see. A real estate agent may be aware of homes that are not yet listed. They may already have seen homes on the market that fit your criteria. If you've never worked with a realtor before, here are some questions to ask a real estate agent.

If you find a home that piques your interest, you should call the contact and see if there is an open house. If there is not, ask if you can schedule a tour of the home. The home search can be a long process and shouldn't be rushed, so be patient!

Figure Out What You Want in a Home

Once you have been looking at the housing scene for a while, you will discover certain aspects of homes that appeal to you more than others. You will see things about homes that you strongly like or dislike. Make a list of these home attributes and categorize them into three areas:

  • Deal-Breakers: These attributes make a house an absolute no-go. For example, homes in high crime areas or near airports often make this list for home seekers. Other examples include homes in areas that flood, in a sinkhole zone, near landfills, or feedlots.
  • Wish List: This category should include attributes you would like, but they are not essential. For example, you may want a pool, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, or a bay window.
  • Must-Haves: These are attributes your new must have in order for you to be interested. It could be a dishwasher, air conditioning, or a two-car garage. It could be space with potential to become a workshop or playroom. Or it could be something about the neighborhood; it's in a good school district or located near a shopping mall. If it's in this category, you don't want to purchase a house without it.

Keep this master list of preferences on your mobile device or write it down so you can take it with you when you go out to look at homes. It can be one of your most powerful tools.

Real Estate Agents

If you decide to hire a real estate agent, you will find that your preparations will come in handy. You can direct your agent to homes that you know you are interested in, and also show your agent your home preferences list. Your agent should be able to work for you in an efficient manner.

For more information about buying a home, see the FindLaw Home Buying Guide. If you want to talk to a real estate lawyer, find a local attorney who understands the property laws in your area. 

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you through the home buying process.

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